The core of financial education that your average student needs isn’t much. Just the practical basics. But those are vital basics. Far too many kids graduate not knowing not only how to balance their checkbook, but how to open an account in the first place. Or the difference between a debit and a credit card. Or why it’s important to make more than the minimum payments on a loan.
In an era when people are taking out larger loans earlier than ever before due to the sky-high costs of education, for a high school to let any student walk out the door without this footing is sheer negligence. But the number of states requiring testing on economic concepts is falling. In 1998, 25 states included economics in their standardized testing. Two years ago, it was 22. Today, only 20. Only 17 states require an economics course at all.
This January, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation (FIRAIE), a group to promote financial competence, released the results of their study on credit outcomes of students. They indicate that students required to take personal finance courses in high school have better than average credit scores and lower debt failure rates as young adults. Taking that further, they also implied that states with ‘rigorous’ financial education mandates have better average credit scores overall.
Currently, the top three states in that field are Idaho, Texas, and Georgia. All three require a half-year of class in personal finance, Texas and Georgia include an element of required skills testing, and Georgia is the only state that requires teachers to be trained on the subject.
Just a few years ago, a study of teenagers in 18 countries found that more than 1 in 6 students in the US failed even the lowest benchmarks of financial literacy. All of those anecdotes about people thinking credit card debt disappears if you cut up a card? Those were revealed true in that study. While not the worst-scoring country in the study, it proved that good financial habits need teaching in the US, and now.